MIRI: The Advocates Association of Sarawak (AAS) is throwing its weight behind the recent call for constitutional amendments to allow the extension of the retirement age for the country’s top four judges, and eventually all judges, to 70.
Its president Ranbir Singh Sangha in a statement yesterday said support by AAS is in light of judicial reforms in the country heading in the right direction for a more executive-independent judiciary.
“AAS supports the call for the constitutional amendments for these top judges to continue their service to the nation by extending their retirement age to 70, and in due course to include all judges,” he said.
Currently, the country’s top four judges are Chief Justice of Malaysia Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, President of the Court of Appeal Tan Sri Ahmad Maarop, Chief Justice of Malaya Tan Sri Zaharah Ibrahim, and Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak Datuk Seri Panglima David Wong Dak Wah.
Ranbir said administratively, judicial reforms had already been rolled out by Malanjum even before statutory amendments were made.
He pointed to the consultation of the three bars – Malaysian Bar Council, Sabah Law Society and AAS – on the appointments and interviews of short-listed candidates for the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) which have been and are being carried out.
“AAS last year had called for a representative from each of the three bars to have a seat in the JAC as part of the judicial reforms of the Judicial Appointment Commission Act 2009 to make the commission more independent.
“The association views Section 5 (1) of the Act as flawed as only four members of the commission are included by default, while five of the nine are appointed at the behest of the prime minister,” he said.
Ranbir added it becomes tremendously impossible for the judiciary to be impartial and partisan to political inclinations when five members are handpicked by the prime minister.
He said AAS is also pleased with other reforms carried out such as the introduction of the balloting system for judges who are empanelled to hear cases in the Federal Court and Court of Appeal, as it improves the perception of impartiality and dispels the notion of court-rigging cases.
He said another was the setting-up of a consultative committee comprising the top four judges, members of the judiciary, representatives of the Attorney-General’s Chambers and bar representatives, on Oct 17 last year to discuss all matters in connection with the administration of justice.
“It is a forum for all stakeholders with common interest to air their views and provide proposal with regards to the administration of the courts, case management and management of the Judiciary,” he said.